China finished on top of the medals table at the International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Aquatics Championships for the first time since 1994, despite the best known member of their team, Sun Yang, failing to compete in the men’s 1500 metres freestyle final on the final day of competition in Kazan.
Yang had already earned golds in the 400m and 800m freestyle events in the Russian city, but the 23-year-old surprised the crowd by not appearing at his blocks to defend his 1500m crown
His withdrawal came so late that it meant he could not be replaced by first reserve Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands.
With rumours circulating about his failure to appear it was later revealed that Yang, a controversial figure in the sport having served a doping ban last year, had not competed due to a chest complaint.
He was still, nevertheless, awarded the men’s swimmer of the meet award.
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri took full advantage of Yang’s non-appearance, setting a European record of 14min 39.67sec to take the gold medal ahead of the United States’ Connor Jaeger and Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, who finished in 14:41.20 and 14:51.08 respectively.
“It was a tough race, and I’m glad to win it,” said Paltrinieri.
“We missed Sun Yang in the call room, we were absolutely surprised, since I expected to race against Sun and I was prepared for that."
The US had begun the final day of competition two golds behind China in the overall medals table and were hoping that Matt Grevers would be able to close the gap by taking the men’s 50m backstroke title.
He missed out by 0.38 seconds as France’s Camille Lacourt defended the title he won two years ago in Barcelona, touching home in a time of 24.61sec.
Australia’s Ben Treffers and Mitchell Larkin were separated by just 0.01 second in the battle for bronze, with Treffers sealing the place on the podium after clocking 24.69.
America were forced to settle for silver again in the women’s 400m individual medley as Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu secured her second gold medal of the meet, having won the 200m individual medley on Monday (August 3).
Hosszu finished in 4:30.39 to deny Maya Di Rado as the American finished 1.32 seconds adrift, while Canada’s Emily Overholt earned her first World Championship medal, taking bronze in 4:32.52.
America were not to be denied gold in the men’s 4x100m medley relay, however, as their quartet of Ryan Murphy, Kevin Cordes, Tom Sheilds and Nathan Adrian were able to hold off Australia to win by 0.15 seconds, touching home in 3:29.93.
France took bronze.
China, though ensured top spot in the final medals table, claiming victory in the women’s 4x100m medley final in 3:54.41, finishing ahead of Sweden and Australia, to end the Championships with 15 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze medals.
It left America second on 13 golds.
Katie Ledecky, who had contributed five golds to the tally, making her the undoubted star of the event, was awarded the women’s swimmer of the meet after extending her unbeaten record in World Championships finals to nine.
Another female star of the Championships was Australia’s Bronte Campbell and she ended her campaign with a third gold medal, storming to victory in the women’s 50m freestyle final in 24.12.
Her sister Cate missed the podium after she could only manage fourth, finishing behind The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström, who swam 24.22 and 24.31 respectively.
Sjöström's compatriot Jennie Johannsson delivered the surprise of the day, finishing clear of Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson and four-time world champion Yuliya Efimova of Russia in 30.05 to win the women’s 50m breaststroke title.
There was also a gold medal for Japan on the final day as Dalya Seto touched home first in the men’s 400m medley in 4:08.50, with Hungary’s David Verraszto taking silver in 4:09.90 while the United States’ Chase Kalisz swam 4:10.05 to secure bronze.
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